Irrfan Khan, the critically acclaimed actor across the globe for his amazing and impeccable acting skills passed away at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital in Mumbai on April 29, aged 53. The Angrezi Medium actor was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer in February 2018 and he spent many months in London getting treated for this rare form of a tumour.
irrfan khan

The actor lost his mother Saeeda Begum Khan only on April 25 in his hometown, but he couldn’t travel due to the lockdown and paid his last respects via video call.

Media reports suggest that the actor encountered infection in his colon at the beginning of the week and was hospitalized immediately, where he breathed his last.  

Neuroendocrine cancer is a rare form of cancer affecting around 12,000 people in the US annually. Oncologists believe that it runs in the family and is often a result of genetic mutation. Also Read: Celebrity Cancer Scare. Why Are They Prone To It?

What Exactly Is Neuroendocrine Cancer Or Tumour?

Neuroendocrine Tumour is a type of cancer where the proliferation of cancerous cells happens in specialized neuroendocrine cells. These cells have characteristics which are quite similar to that of the nerve cells and the cells secreting hormones. The entire neuroendocrine system consists of glands and nerve endings and it is chiefly in charge of the production and release of hormones into the body via the bloodstream.

Though deemed rare, these tumours can occur in any part of the body including the appendix, lungs, small intestine, pancreas and rectum and can very well be in functioning and non-functioning states. 

Types Of Neuroendocrine Tumours

There are different types of neuroendocrine tumours depending upon the growth rate and function. These are:

Carcinoid tumours

These tumours are slow-growing ones and can happen anywhere in the body. The tumorous cells usually begin in the digestive tract (i.e. stomach, appendix, small intestine, colon, rectum) or in the lungs.

Adrenal Cancer

Another rare type of cancer, the tumour happens on the triangular-shaped adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys. Also known as adrenocortical cancer, these cancers can usually be cured if diagnosed early.

Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumours

Also known as islet cell cancer, these type of cancer cells usually happen in the hormone-producing cells (i.e. the islet cells) of the pancreas. Although rare, the tumour cells remain active and continue to secrete hormones (known as functional tumours), generating too much of the given hormone in the body. They further cause gastrinoma and glucagonoma. Also Read: Pancreatic Cancer: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


A paraganglioma is a slow-growing type and usually begins in certain nerve cells that are dispersed throughout the body. The abnormal cancerous cells remain active and produce hormones known as catecholamines or adrenaline, which is also termed as the fight-or-flight hormone.

Merkel’s cell carcinoma

It is a type of skin cancer, which usually appears as a flesh-coloured or bluish-red nodule, often on your neck, head or face. Often diagnosed in older people, the cancerous cells are usually inclined to grow fast and spread quickly to other parts of the body.


Another type of tumour that happens in the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys. The tumour remains active and triggers the secretion of hormones that can cause high blood pressure, excessive sweating, headache, and symptoms of a panic attack.


Like any other form of cancer, the absolute cause of Neuroendocrine tumours is yet unknown, but they usually happen when there are changes or mutations in the DNA of the neuroendocrine cells. But the risk of this type of tumour becomes high if the person has the following genetic conditions including:

  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 1 (MEN 1)
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2 (MEN 2)
  • Neurofibromatosis


Although signs are not visualised in the beginning, they slowly develop with time and mostly depend upon the type and location of the tumour. The common signs and symptoms include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Frequent urination
  • Skin flushing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Dizziness
  • Skin rash
  • Pain due to the growing tumour
  • A feeling of a growing lump under the skin
  • General debility
  • Sudden weight loss

Diagnosis And Treatment

It is strongly advocated to consult a specialized doctor at the earliest in case you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms. The doctor would first conduct a thorough physical examination to feel the presence of any swollen lymph nodes followed by other diagnostics including:

  • Blood And Urine Tests: To analyse the presence of excessive secretion of hormones.
  • Imaging techniques: CT-scan, MRI-scan, and PET-scan
  • Biopsy


Treatment options usually depend upon the type and stage of the tumour:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Medications

A lot of research is going in the area of finding a cure for this deadly cancer. The survival rate is up to 1 year in 90% cases, while few patients can successfully battle it for 5 years, post-surgery and with the help of medications.